live well in prosperity

materialism (noun): a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.

it made me mad. she made me mad. but she wasn't to blame, was she? no. she was simply the bearer of bad news. the messenger, who had my pistol full of anger and frustration pointed at her ready to shoot. but the thing is there is worse news to get in this life. in fact, there is much worse news to get…. the loss of a dear friend, the cancer's return, a lover's good-bye. so i wasn't really mad at her or even the news; i was mad that all of it made me so mad.

i knew as soon as i decided to check in a bag at the airport something was bound to go wrong. it always does, it seems, when i travel. and i am not generally so pessimistic. it's simply that i know if there is ever an issue to arise while traveling it usually revolves around me. i am always the one to get stopped during security, always the one whose ticket doesn't seem to scan as it should, always the one to hold everyone up.

it had actually become quite a joke with everyone. every time i got stopped i would give the people i was traveling with a knowing look and someone would say, "of course you would be the one stopped, wouldn't you!" we'd all laugh and it was all merry because i was always got on the plane, always got through security and eventually the hold up passed.

but this time the future was bleak. i wasn't getting my luggage back. it was lost. gone.

and why was i so mad? it was stuff. stuff. replaceable stuff. i knew that. i had drilled into my head all this year that people matter more, honoring the lord matters more. i thought i was growing further away from materialism and deeper into the heart of god.

but there is the locket tara gave me, i moped to myself. and the ring hannah and i made together. and that jacket i just bought and hadn't even worn yet. and that lovely ring with hebrew inscribed on it... mama had got that sent over from israel several christmases ago. and that anne of green gables movie collection was stowed right on top.

and then like a gentle reminder from the lord i remembered the verse i had put to memory this summer: "for i brought nothing in this world, and i cannot take anything out of this world. but if i have food and clothing, with these i will be content."

o, but why can't this heart be satisfied with bread and clothes? why can't my unsatisfied heart be satisfied in the grace of my ever so gracious father?

earlier this week i lost my iphone. today, my laptop charger stopped working (the one i replaced for the last one, mind you... i'm looking at you apple computers). instead of a bright and shiny (and gold, in my case) iphone, i have an old slide phone, which means i only use it to call and text. which means i can't imessage my best friend. which means i can't look up imdb facts after i take in a film. which means i can't go on instagram. which means siri is no longer at my beck and call. which means i can't google the answers to my endless questions. which means i have to learn to be content with a slider phone that sometimes makes the voice of the person i am talking to sound muffled.

and my laptop charger is done. it completely gave up after only a few months and i am mad at its lack of perseverance. and this means i have to walk to campus each time i have to use the internet. which means i have to walk to campus a lot seeing as it is the week before finals and i have six papers and three presentations to work on. which means i have to walk in the dreary pacific-northwest-weather-wannabe of boone. which means i can't lay in my comfy bed under heated blanket or in a dimly lit coffee shop with honey vanilla breve in hand while working on these academic pursuits. which means i have to learn to be content with a dell computer that takes 20 minutes to get to.

and i come back to the book i felt prompted by the lord to read each day: phillipians.

and every day i come to the last chapter of that book and find paul's comphelling statement: for i have learned in whatever situation i am to be content. i know how to be brought low, and i know how to abound. in any and every circumstance, i have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. i can do all things through him who strengthens me.

the nasb says "i know how to live in prosperity." 

do i know how to live in well prosperity? do you? because when i watch myself and the thousands of college students around me i would say we don't live well in prosperity. in fact, i would go so far as to say that most believers in america struggle to live well in prosperity.

i was recently reading a book by billy graham (hope for the troubled heart) and he said he once talked to the leader of a country who told him that christians seem to thrive in persecution. i read and it and knew that to be true. the underground churches of countries where christianity is illegal... those churches are thriving. the martyrs who had to face unimaginable torment... their faith was incredible.  yes. under persecution believers thrive. for all we can cling to is our lord in these times and we realize that truly our only hope and comfort is in him. that we must not "set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on god who richly provides us with everything to enjoy."

the leader continued talking to billy graham saying that he assumed the best way to stomp out such faith is to put christians into prosperity. 

chills went down my back as i read that. why in much do i feel like i am in lesser need of the lord? like i am not as dependent on him as i truly am? 

so i read phillipians with a plea to paul: teach me how to live in much.

because i have much. i have a full closet even with my lost luggage. i have a winter jacket in this chilly weather. i have a phone that works. i have access to computers that are only twenty minutes away. i have a warm bed. i have an apple tv. i have food. i have freedom to worship. i have two bibles in my possession (o, how so many just long for one!). and i am ashamed to say i have a christmas wish list sent to my mom and more than one thing will surely be given on december 25th. i have a mother. a father. a sister. friends. loved ones. i have health. i have two legs that work so well and take me to so many places. i have sight. i can hear.

o i have much but i am ashamed to say that in much, i still want more. i am ashamed to say i like stuff a lot. i am ashamed to say that i use my money poorly. 

i was reading this morning in luke and jesus was talking to all the people who had come to see this man who healed leprosy and made the blind see, and jesus said that those who are hungry now are blessed, for soon they will be full, and those who are poor now are blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

and those are nice things to say; things i might even say to those in need when they are desperate for some semblance of comfort. but then jesus continued and said "but woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort." woe to the rich... already received their comfort...

i shook in fear because i knew that i do not want the comfort of wealth right now if that means not having the comfort of christ. i know that money can't buy me happiness. haven't i already tried so many times? trying to buy happiness in a cute dress, or fancy gadget, or expensive make-up. and they never satisfy. usually, before i even walk out of the store my stomach drops and a deep ache fills. o, how i know that money cannot comfort. 

so jesus take it all if that mean i experience the comfort of you more fully! because the comfort of knowing you, of being saved, of joy in you is of more valuable than any possession i could be offered.

i was eating pinto beans and drinking hot chocolate with my friend hannah last night and i told her how i always envy those who don't know what to do with their money. who simply don't care for things that much. because when i get money, my mind instantly goes to the endless wish list in my head and how i can check one thing off. but when will the wish list end?

george washington carver was said to have checks never deposited in his desk drawer when he died. i know me and when i die that will probably not be the case. i care too much about money. and what does the lord say about that? "those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs."

that last sentence hits deep. is my love for money so controlling that i wander? am i slave to money? for scripture says we cannot have two masters.

i end this post with a lot of questions unanswered because this is more of a confession piece, rather than a "i went through this and now i have seen the light and repented." i am daily having to confess and repent because i admit the pull of money is strong on me. sometimes i think moving off to some primal tribe would be easier because i wouldn't see all the shiny things i want. but i must learn how to content in little and in much.

so i will keep walking up to the alter and sacrificing this beast of a thing in me. i will keep coming to the lord for forgiveness because o how i fail more than i succeed. and i will keep dipping into the lord's grace to strengthen me as i deny myself what i want, and give unto him and others what is commanded. 

may grace and peace be with us this season when materialism rears its ugly head even more strongly than usual. may we not forget why we celebrate. may we be an advent people---waiting expectantly and cheerfully, not for presents, but for our lord. 

image: one two three